"We just went back to what we were doing two years ago with Jerry (at middle linebacker)," said Willy Robinson defensive coordinator. "He makes the calls for us in there. He's very efficient. He's very comfortable."
Robinson said Jermaine Love and Freddy Burton are working with the second team at middle linebacker.
"I think where we are at linebacker now is a nice four deep," Robinson said. "Of the four, probably the least experienced is (Anthony Leon). We've got those guys on special teams, too."
"We've gotten our legs back in the last few days," he said. "We looked so much faster and efficient."
There was one other item of news Wednesday. Head coach Bobby Petrino, speaking on the SEC coaches conference call, indicated that fullback Van Stumon and offensive tackle Anthony Oden would be suspended for the first game. Petrino said it was a coaches decision suspension. Both had off-the-field problems in the summer.
Robinson said there were three freshman in the defensive rotation for Saturday night's season opener against Tennessee Tech. He indicated tackle Byran Jones, end Chris Smith and cornerback Eric Bennett all would play. Bennett is also in special teams.
"Eric is going to play," Robinson said. "He had a great offseason and he's had a nice camp. Along with Byran and Chris, those three are going to be out there. Unlike two years ago when we had to play some young ones, these three are quality and are going to be out there because they deserve it."
Robinson also indicated that true freshman Darrell Smith, while maybe not in the two deep rotation, was in the picture on several special teams.
"He's a nice athlete and he tackles well," Robinson said. "We are going to continue to keep him (with the varsity) and work him."
Robinson sees solid development throughout the defense. He was asked to compare this unit to two years ago.
"Two years ago when we talked to them about situations, it was like talking Chinese to them," he said. "Now, when we paint a picture, they understand. They see it."
Defensive end Jake Bequette said there are many changes.
"I think what's different about this defense is two areas, both the physical and the mental," he said. "It's experience and it's talent. You can go through all of the different areas and when you get through, it's just a simple thing. Experience and talent.
"We've put in the time in the weight room. We are bigger, stronger and faster. But the other thing, we know what we are doing now."
The coaches might know them better, too.
"I don't think there's any question about that," Bequette said. "I think the coaches have studied what we do best and what we don't do as well. They've cut some things back and then taken some things we do well and added some twists and things to that.
"We have better players as the result of all of that. We can play faster. I think we've added different aspects to this defense that have made us better. We've also added some players and the ones who were here have worked their butts off. I think it will translate to better performance."
Ramon Broadway sees it, too.
"That's what coaching is, taking the best things you do and building upon them," Broadway said. "It's probably not as big a playbook. But it's definitely not simple or easy. I think what they've done is study what confused us and cut that out. It's an attempt to make us faster."
Broadway wasn't surprised when he saw Jerry Franklin at middle linebacker as the first game approaches.
"I guess I knew that it would eventually come around to that," Broadway said. "He's spent some time on the second team while some other things were going on, but he stayed humble and he just kept competing.
"I had a long talk with him before the mock game at the end of last week. He's kept the good attitude.
"You see him out there and he's been smiling. I think Jerry is in a good place (mentally) right now. He just kept working. Competition is always good. I think he was humble and responded to the competition. I think it pushed him to be the player he could be."